On Tuesday, the Nashville Health Care Council hosted a member discussion with Sam Hazen, the CEO of HCA Healthcare. This virtual event was the latest installment of the Council’s “Health Care Brass Tacks” series, which invites Council board members and C-suite health care leaders to discuss their perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic and its overall impact on the health care industry.
HCA Healthcare is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services, comprising more than 2,000 sites of care, including 185 hospitals, surgery centers, freestanding ERs, urgent care centers, and physician clinics, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. As a learning health system, HCA Healthcare uses its more than 32 million annual patient encounters to advance science, improve patient care and save lives.
Hazen spoke with Council President Hayley Hovious about how his company set priorities and addressed industry and global challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what the future holds for the organization.
“In the beginning of the pandemic, we had to refocus and slow down in many ways. We identified two priorities as a company. First, protect our people so they could care for patients. Second, protect our organization so it could continue serving our communities for years to come. Anything else had to wait,” said Hazen. “Clarifying our priorities allowed us to allocate our attention and resources appropriately. Now, as we’re evolving and getting back to normal, it’s still important for us to clarify our purpose and each team member’s role in that.”
Hazen also remarked on the importance of frequent, strategic communications during the pandemic. HCA Healthcare engaged in a number of new partnerships as part of its pandemic response, and some of these have the potential to expand during non-pandemic times as well.
“Early on, lab testing was a huge issue across the country, and for HCA Healthcare in particular, we needed efficient testing to protect our employees working on the front lines. We worked with lab companies to speed up turnaround time for testing and increase availability of testing within the hospitals,” said Hazen. “Medicare Advantage was another key partnership in the early days. Working with payers to speed up discharge processes allowed us to manage the flow of patients, and helped ensure we could meet the needs of our communities.”
The availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) was another challenge in 2020. There was a global shortage, but HCA Healthcare has a strong supply chain and was able to move inventory around to address needs in different regions of the country. Hazen emphasized that the organization’s goal should be to manage its own inventory, and not rely on the government’s supply. To help increase domestic production of PPE, HCA Healthcare recently announced a partnership with a global manufacturing company to make surgical and procedure masks in Asheville, N.C.
“With regard to disaster readiness, we are in an even better place now than we were a year ago, and I’m proud of what our supply chain team has done to manage what we have and prepare for the future,” said Hazen.
As for what’s on the horizon for HCA Healthcare, Hazen is looking at technology and home health options that became more prevalent in 2020, and how the company will deploy these innovations to improve patient care and experience. He pointed out that health care demand will only grow as the population ages and gets larger. The biggest change will be in how it is delivered.
In addition to pandemic response, another issue weighing on Hazen as he plans for the future is diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
“After George Floyd’s death and social justice issues came front-and-center last summer, we reassessed our DEI efforts to make them even more robust,” he said. “Our strategies address DEI issues for our patients, our employees and the communities we serve. We’re in the people business, and our overall success depends on fostering a culture of inclusion, compassion and respect throughout our organization.”